Pennsylvania Record

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Fired Phila. prison guard sues over promotion denial

By Jon Campisi | Aug 2, 2012

A former Philadelphia prison guard has filed suit against the City of Philadelphia and various human resources officials contending he was unfairly denied a job promotion despite years of service.

Maurice A. Byrd alleges in his complaint, which was filed July 30 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by attorney Olugbenga O. Abiona, that he was denied the position of correctional lieutenant on Aug. 5, 2010, despite the fact that he scored better on the examination than other prospects and that he had a better disciplinary record than other prison guards at the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Facility, the plaintiff’s place of employment and an additional defendant named in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit states that Byrd, who was first hired by the city in the summer of 1991 and was promoted to the position of correctional sergeant five years later, had applied for a promotion to correctional lieutenant in July 2008.

Byrd was ranked 26 out of 54 applicants who had taken the lieutenant examination, enabling him to be placed on an eligibility list for the job.

Between July 9, 2008 and July 9, 2010, 22 of the 25 applicants who scored higher than the plaintiff on the exam were offered, and accepted, the position, the suit states.

All of those applicants were offered the promotion in the order in which they were ranked on the eligibility list.

During that same time period, the lawsuit claims, four applicants who scored less than Byrd on the exam were given the lieutenant job, including two men with a history of disciplinary issues.

The lawsuit goes on to offer examples of those guards who, despite significant disciplinary histories, were given the promotion, including one man who had once received a 30-day suspension for pointing a gun at another driver during an off-duty incident.

Byrd was told in early August 2010 that his name was being removed from the lieutenant eligibility list because of a five-day suspension in the fall of 2009 for failing to efficiently perform his duties and for failure to assist in maintaining good order of the institution.

The lawsuit claims that Byrd and one other man were the only two guards removed from the promotion eligibility list; both are African American males.

The suit states that Byrd was first passed over for lieutenant back in 2005, although he was never given a reason for the decision.

An arbitrator eventually concluded that the city abused its discretion and ordered the city to make Byrd whole by promoting him to the denied position.

“To this date the City has failed to comply with the Arbitrators’ decision, after an arbitration hearing where Defendants’ were found to have unjustifiably denied Plaintiff the position of Correctional Lieutenant and ordered to promote Plaintiff,” the lawsuit states.

Byrd first filed a complaint of race and gender discrimination against the defendants with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

Byrd was fired by the city on May 2, 2011.

The complaint contains counts of discrimination, retaliation and civil rights violations.

Byrd seeks unspecified compensatory damages, including relief for lost wages and benefits, as well as attorney’s fees and other court relief.

A jury trial has been demanded.


The federal case number is 2:12-cv-04308-JCJ.

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